Continuing their game of London venue bingo, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott take to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in almost two decades. Like the venue itself, the duo have become a national institute, singing Heaton’s Brit wit anthems on anything from, well, bingo to the Royal Albert Hall. While fronting The Beautiful South they were the anti-rock band, delivering singalongs with a country twang to the everyman, and the success of this venture together has proved that everyman wanted them back.
As is often the case, the setlist is given a boot up the arse, not just with the tracks from last year’s top five album, Wisdom, Laughter And Lines, but requests from “my mate Dave” and “Jacqui’s boyfriend” in the form of Beautiful South album track ‘Have Fun’ (for which Paul apologises for being so miserable) and The Housemartins’ ‘Anxious’, performed on this tour for the first time in 29 years; both are as equally received as any of their “solid bronze” hits.
Of the new numbers, it’s the ones that allow the pair their own turn in the spotlight that provide the magic: ‘The Horse And Groom’ sees Paul running and writhing around the stage to a New Order like number, his anorak zipped to the top as is always the case. Jacqui’s ‘Sundial In The Shade’ is a stunning moment, and while she’s become more comfortable back on stage as these few years have flown by, she’s clearly more at home singing rather than accepting the applause that precedes or follows.
Although their crowd bring the energy no matter the venue, this lot are here to have fun (“fun, fun”). Perhaps it’s the gold ticker tape or the giant balloons, perhaps it’s Paul and Jacqui’s dance for the outro of ‘Happy Hour’, but the Royal Albert Hall has rarely seen a right royal knees up like this one. It’s unlikely it’s heard a track opening with line “Fuck the King and fuck the Queen with an AK47” sung from within either, but it happened, and for a few minutes everyone had come along to ‘Heatongrad’.
So it’s back to watching Emmerdale and spending time with the family for Paul and Jacqui, but they’ll be back for the full house next time – perhaps it’s time for an arena next.